By John Sturbin | Senior WriterRacinToday.com
NASCAR’s ascendant road-course baron will attempt as a amateur afresh this weekend at Daytona International Speedway, area Chase Elliott has accepted the claiming of world-class ability sports car racing.
Elliott is administration the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Antagonism Cadillac DPi-V.R that will alpha on-pole Saturday afternoon in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s season-opening 59th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“It’s one of those contest I’ve consistently admired and admired, and you consistently apprehend everybody talking about it,” said Elliott, who clinched his aboriginal NASCAR Cup Alternation championship in November. “It’s an accident that I feel a lot of NASCAR guys accept done over the years whenever they accept the opportunity. So affectionate of growing up about NASCAR, you adore that, you see that. So those things fabricated me apprehend that, ‘Hey, if I anytime accept a adventitious one day to go do this, I appetite to go do that.”
The No. 31 Caddy appearance fulltime WeatherTech Championship drivers Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr, both of Brazil, and Apple Ability Championship ace Mike Conway of the United Kingdom. Action Express Antagonism is gluttonous a fourth all-embracing Rolex 24 achievement and aboriginal for the No. 31 Whelen program. The aggregation becoming P1 by acceptable the Motul Pole Award 100-minute condoning chase aftermost Sunday on DIS’ 3.56-mile “roval” accumulation sections of the famed, high-banked/2.5-mile oval.
The Rolex 24 will close-out a active and assorted antagonism offseason for Elliott, who fabricated his admission in the Chili Bowl Nationals _ the “Super Bowl of Midget Racing” _ beforehand this ages in Tulsa, Okla. Elliott is switching from the quarter-mile adobe apparent at River Spirt Expo Center to the ambagious DIS layout, armpit of his fifth and best contempo road-course achievement aftermost abatement during the Cup Series’ revised/COVID-19-impacted schedule.
“For me, I aloof acquainted like I capital to try altered things,” said Elliott, the 25-year-old son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. “I’m still adequately young, in my 20s. I anticipate as you get older, it aloof gets harder to apprentice new disciplines. I anticipate while I’m at the date I’m at, I’d like to footfall into added areas and apprentice altered things.
“I anticipate the added assorted you can be, the bigger you’ll be at the end of the day and the added able you’re activity to be bottomward the road. Aloof aggravating to apprentice as abundant as I can at the age I’m at. It’s a acceptable time to do these things. I accept acceptable opportunities to go do them, so why not?”
Coming off a awful accustomed analysis weekend and their pole-winning effort, the Whelen Engineering drivers are focused on acceptable the Rolex 24. NBC’s alive advantage will activate at 3:30 p.m. (EST) with the blooming banderole appointed for 3:40 p.m.
Whelen Engineering is attractive to abduction its third Rolex 24 at Daytona (2010 and 2014), while Derani hopes to bless his additional Rolex 24 win (2016).
“It’s abundant to be aback for accession year and to alpha the year off acceptable the pole position for the bigger chase of the year is a positive,” Derani said. “Every time we go on-track, we appearance aggregate we have. We go racing. But there’s still a lot of assignment to do this weekend. We’re activity to alpha on the pole, but that doesn’t beggarly anything. It’s a 24-hour race. For us, we’ve got to ascendancy the things we can.
“I’m absolutely blessed to aback for accession year with Whelen Engineering, Cadillac, and Action Express Racing. To be administration the car with Felipe again, for the third year, I anticipate the affiliation has been accepting bigger and better. Mike is no stranger. He was with us at the Rolex aftermost year and has been with the aggregation for a cardinal of years. He’s a abundant accession _ a actual able guy. He gets the job done.
“And Chase, what a absurd befalling for us to accept the accepted NASCAR best accompany us this year for the bigger chase in our championship. I anticipate Chase has been accomplishing a absurd job. It’s never accessible to appear from such a altered conduct into the sports car world. But I anticipate he is adapting absolutely bound abnormally with accepting bound time in the car. This weekend, we’re activity to try to advice him alike added so he can hit the arena active in the race. He’s a accomplished guy. You don’t win a championship like he did aftermost year if you don’t accept a amazing bulk of talent. Hopefully, the four of us can allotment a absurd win Sunday afternoon.”
Despite accepting won four afterwards NASCAR road-course events, Elliott accustomed the Cadillac Prototype is clearly altered from his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
“Last weekend, it was all about aggravating to get up to speed,” Elliott said. “These cars are actual different. The achievement beneath braking _ accurately _ and the bulk of bend acceleration you can backpack is abundant altered than what I’m acclimated to seeing visually sitting in the car.
“Finding that new branch of absoluteness has been a claiming for me. It acquainted actual adopted on my aboriginal day. The fun affair was, during night practice, I started to accomplish some progress. I started accepting afterpiece to the absolute of the car. And, as I started to feel that, I acquainted like things started activity like a chase car. When it starts to feel like a chase car, I feel like things are added accepted _ from NASCAR to sports cars. I’m aloof blame myself to acquisition those limits. I’m accepting a blast.”
Meanwhile, reigning/two-time Rolex 24 champ Wayne Taylor Antagonism has abutting backstab Acura GTD alternation champ and 2012 Rolex champ Meyer Shank Antagonism in Acura ARX-05 Prototypes. Dane Cameron and Olivier Pla will alpha fourth in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura while Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor able fifth in the No. 10 WTR Acura.
“We’re absolutely blessed area the car is appropriate now from a handling/balance perspective,” said Shank, whose alignment has alternate to Prototypes afterwards antagonism in GT Daytona the accomplished two years and acceptable the 2019-20 championships. “All the drivers like the car, and they’re all abundantly fast. I don’t anticipate we could be happier at this point. We alike had time to convenance some ‘bad scenario’ pit stops _ what to do if things go amiss during the race. To accept that affectionate of alleviation is absolutely admired activity into the race. We’re ready.”
Wayne Taylor Antagonism won the Rolex 24 in 2017, 2019 and 2020 with the Cadillac program.
“I anticipate about to the (qualifying) chase aftermost weekend, we’ve bigger absolutely a bit,” team-owner Taylor said. “I feel as if we accept a car now that is aggressive abundant to win the race. It’s been a amusement to accept such abundant abutment from HPD (Honda Achievement Development), it aloof pushes all of us to do a bigger job. Obviously, lots of things can appear during the advance of a 24-hour race, but I’ll put our four drivers up adjoin any added calendar in the field. They’ve got the acquaintance and the knowledge, and there’s no egos complex at all. So now we’re aloof cat-and-mouse for the start, but we’re activity into the chase activity good.”
Friday’s final one-hour convenance saw Cadillacs abode 1-2. Loic Duval was quickest with a lap of 1-minute, 35.085-seconds in the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R. Formula One adept Kevin Magnussen ran additional in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Antagonism Cadillac. Magnussen has abutting co-drivers Renger van der Zande and six-time/reigning NTT IndyCar Alternation best Scott Dixon this weekend.
Third-fast was Oliver Jarvis in the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P. Jarvis completed alone bristles laps during the affair in a car bedeviled Thursday by agent and gearbox issues. Albuquerque was fourth-fastest in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05.
Corvette Antagonism claimed aboriginal and additional in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class during aftermost Sunday’s condoning race, as Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims won in their debuts with the GM branch team.
Tandy, Sims and Tommy Milner will allotment the No. 4 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. The Roar Afore the 24 analysis weekend additionally saw Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg acquire P2 in the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Corvette. They will drive with Antonio Garcia during the Rolex 24.
Tandy won P1 by 12 abnormal over Catsburg, wrapping up three canicule of testing and development for the mid-engine C8.R. Corvette Antagonism is a three-time champ of the Rolex 24 _ including the all-embracing achievement in 2001 and aback to-back GTLM wins in 2015-16. A year ago, the aggregation debuted the C8.R with a fourth-place accomplishment for Garcia, Taylor and Catsburg as the No. 3 access recorded added afar than any Corvette in the race’s history.
“Everyone wants to alpha the Rolex 24 from pole position, and we got to do this in a burden bearings and run through all the procedures,” Tandy said. “The Corvette was great. We’ve been alive through a affairs as normal. Alike alive with the strategists and things like this is article we don’t apprehend to go through afore our aboriginal chase with a new program.”
Tandy, of Bedford, England, has replaced Oliver Gavin, who stepped abroad from fulltime active afterwards 19 years with the program. Tandy has abutting a full-season calendar that boasts nine IMSA Drivers Championships and 42 chase wins with Corvette Racing.
Tandy owns 15 career IMSA victories _ all in GT antagonism _ and has won the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans. He additionally is a accomplished all-embracing champ at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring and the 24 Hours of Spa.
Sims, of Alcester, England, is a five-time champ in IMSA antagonism during a two-year, full-season assignment in 2017 and 2018. He owns a achievement at Petit Le Mans forth with 24-hour wins at Spa and the Nürburgring, as able-bodied as two career starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It was an absorbing aboriginal aftertaste of the altitude in the Corvette,” Sims said. “Very quickly, I was accustomed a lot of aplomb from the car as to how to push. I was able to get about the BMWs on the aboriginal lap and again absolutely aloof acquisition my anxiety lap-by-lap. With the brace of cautions, it didn’t feel like there was a huge bulk of laps but about it was nice to get some acquaintance in the wet and get a activity for how the C8.R was working.
“Doing a hot pit stop beneath a reasonable bulk of time burden was nice; not a lot of the chase had gone so we didn’t charge to ammunition up too much. It was nice to go through all the procedures and accept a aftertaste of it afore the 24 Hours.”
The British brace accompany Milner, now Corvette Racing’s best accomplished full-season driver. The backstab IMSA Drivers Best has 15 victories with the affairs including wins at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring, amid others. Milner, who has played a key role in testing and development of the C8.R, will activate his 10th year with Corvette Antagonism this weekend.
In the No. 3 Corvette, Garcia and Taylor becoming bristles victories and combed for six poles during the 2020 GTLM season. The brace won for the aboriginal time at Daytona in July for Corvette Racing’s 100th IMSA victory. Garcia won his fourth Drivers Championship in 2020 while Taylor captured his third Drivers title. Both are accomplished winners at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans. Catsburg allotment to the cockpit afterward a division in which he won the Nurburgring 24 Hours, amid added high-profile events.
The mid-engine Corvette C8.R won six contest and swept the full-season GTLM championship in 2020. In addition, the C8.R claimed seven poles and acquaint fastest GTLM chase lap at six events. The C8.R and Corvette Stingray artery car accept been developed simultaneously, with the chase car and assembly agent administration added technology and genitalia than any previous-generation Corvette.
Friday’s final GTLM convenance was paced by Alessandro Pier Guidi at 1-minute, 42.584-seconds in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE. Kevin Estre placed additional in the No. 79 WeatherTech Antagonism Porsche 911 RSR-19, with Milner third in the No. 4 Corvette C8.R.
Television advantage of the Rolex 24 at Daytona starts Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (EST) on NBC, and continues on NBC Sports Network from 4:30-8 p.m.; 11 p.m.-3 a.m. Sunday and 6 a.m.- 2 p.m Sunday. Advantage concludes with the final two hours on NBC from 2-4 p.m. Sunday. Alive flag-to-flag advantage additionally will be accessible on the NBC Sports App and NBCSN Gold with NBCSN Trackpass authentication.
Fans can accept to audio annotation via IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and Sirius 216, XM 202 and SiriusXM Online 972. Fans additionally can chase alive via in-car cameras, IMSA Radio and timing & scoring accessible common on IMSA.com and the IMSA adaptable accessory App.
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